Last weekend was spring planting weekend at the village, we had 10 extra teams of horses to help prepare and plant the fields. Some were retired employees, some international ploughing match entrants. We are having the ploughing match really near here this fall and the teams are getting in practice. Luckily Alan came down to the village so he could take some pictures for me as he doesn’t wear a costume.
My favourite visiting horse team was the Wensink twin’s Belgians.
I was working in the Louck’s kitchen last Saturday with Barb. Her 5 year old granddaughter, Hadley, got into costume and spent the day with us. For obvious reasons she was a huge hit with the visitors.
On Sunday we had a visit from Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Federal Liberal Party, and his family. They spent the day at the village and apparently enjoyed themselves. Heather had no idea who he was when he purchased his ticket and rode on the train.
from Justin Trudeau’s facebook page…
I have been in a few different buildings in the last couple of weeks. A couple of weeks ago we had the Queen’s birthday celebrations. This picture was taken out of an upstairs window at Cooks Tavern where our village sedentary militia was assembled behind some visiting members of the Brockville Infantry and the Brockville Rifles.
One thing that is GREAT for me this year is that my daughter, Heather got a summer student’s job at the village. It is an hour drive in each direction and it is wonderful to have company and someone to drive half the time. She is regularly on the miniature train, but about once a week she is being put in my old building, the woollen mill. She is obviously comfortable in there as she has known the guys for many years. My best friend at the village, Lynda has also just replaced me for the summer in the mill. Here is Heather dressed for a day in the mill. Her dad took these pictures as it would have been much too public for me to.
Last fall I did a temporary placement in the McDiarmid House, which is hand spinning and weaving. I am now going to be doing a day in there now and then when the regular artisan is on her days off. I was in there last week and I couldn’t resist going into the bedroom to take a picture of the young Brownies and Girl Guides as they trooped past. No pun intended. Really.
I made my first (totally passable) rhubarb pie in the bake kettle with no one else around to help me. I have used bake kettles before, but never without supervision. I was surprised how well it went and how straightforward it seems to be. Hopefully it wasn’t just beginners luck.
My first rhubarb pie…yeah!!!
The bake kettle after use
In drag for a day in the Grist mill
I have been moving around the village a bit, things are unsettled in the first couple of weeks as staff shifts around and new people get incorporated. I had a visit to costuming so I could go into the flour mill in drag. They had me outfitted in less than five minutes. There is no real way to interpret around some positions as a woman, so we have to dress in men’s clothes once in a while and I spent that particular day in the grist mill.
Costuming is always busy in the mornings just before work. They are standing by for mending, supplying hairpins, last minute re assignments that require special outfits, etc. Later in the day they often have to outfit large groups of visitors that will be spending time on site in costume as part of their programs-overnight groups of school children and their teachers or girl guide troupes. Later in the season they have to outfit the kids from the overnight camps. Thirty kids a week with two complete outfits per child. They also have a lot of work to do on special event weekends where regular staff need clothes representing people of a higher social class than they usually portray, and visiting extras need to be clothed in period costumes.
I enjoyed my day in the grist mill where they grind a hard, red Ontario spring wheat that is high in gluten and protein. They produce flour for our on-site bakery and our gift shop as well as a few local bakeries who like the authentic stone ground flour our grist mill produces. It makes REALLY good bread that usually sells out at our gift shop, sometimes within minutes.
Grist mill interior
I spent 4 days in my old job in the woollen mill, then moved into my new position in the cooking unit. I am at the completely opposite end of the village this summer in the kitchens down on the farms. I baked my first cake in the wood cook stove and thankfully, it turned out fine..nice and moist and not burned, which had been my fear. This picture is before I added a brown sugar icing.
A few weeks ago, we set up the houses at work for the season. Every year all the antiques are taken out of the buildings and stored for the winter. The houses are cleaned top to bottom, the carpets rolled up and the furniture draped in protective tyvek. We come back in the spring, clean again, return the antiques to their places and set everything up for the season. I took a before and after shot of one room, sorry the after shot is a little overexposed. This is the sitting room at the Loucks farmhouse.
On that same day a few weeks ago, I snapped a shot of the back street of the village just as everyone was leaving work. It does NOT look like your typical 1860’s street scene!
Today, I left my building a few minutes early so I could get a shot from pretty much the same place of a few of the same people leaving work. It looks a little different (as well it should!)
For this shot, I was standing just beside the rock in the picture above. I remember once a few years ago when Alan drove me to work and I had stuff to move between buildings. He was horrified when I made him drive through the village in a car. I must admit, I like to walk round the village before work sometimes and the bucket lifts and pickup trucks do nothing to enhance the experience, let me tell you. Luckily for the visitors, we do everything we can to help them have an authentic 1860’s experience during opening hours.
I spent a wonderful day yesterday with my historic cooking friends in Toronto. It is a bit of compensation for the fact that I will not be seeing my living history friends at the Civilian Symposium at Harrisburg this coming week. Mongomery,s Inn dates from the 1830’s and was turned into a museum 40 years ago this week. As well as a barroom, a ballroom and lots of bedrooms, they have two separate open hearths, both of which were animated yesterday. It also has a small bake oven beside one hearth and a larger bake oven outside. Yesterday the smaller bake oven was in use.
This is the first time I have been in a period costume since I went down to Gettysburg and made my slippers, so I got to take them out for a spin. I still need to get some roving and stuff the toes to make them a bit more square, but I wore them all day and they were very comfortable:
I made “Another Vegetable Soup” from Maria Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1806 for the volunteer cooks to eat for lunch. What’s not to like…a bunch of vegetables and 1/2 a pound of butter!
Cutting up my veg (Sarah in background)
Stirring my soup
I then helped Sarah (B.Hood) make Cider Cake from Lydia Childs’s The Frugal Housewifes Manual, 1840, using a bake kettle. I must say I actually understand the bake kettle a lot more this morning than I did yesterday morning. Learning curves…you gotta love ’em!
Putting the coals on the bake kettle
There are bits of good news. Like we are in Gettysburg and I finally got a hotel room with a king size bed. I have been trying to get Alan to realize the possibilities. He is there comfortingly snoring away BUT I also have incredible amounts of space over here. My insomnia plagued self can toss and turn at will, assuming any position I like without worrying that I will ruin his sleep as well as my own.
More good news..I have enough yarn and needles to start any hat I want on the drive home. So what is the bad news, you ask? Well, we left the house and drove on deeply slush covered roads, then behind snow plows for half an hour just to leave Ottawa. I had been proud of the speed and efficiency with which we had dispatched breakfast and packing. We crossed the border and the guard said ‘be careful, it is really bad near Watertown’. Uh,oh we had thought it was bad already, but he was right. This was the road condition for at least half an hour. We were basically following the emergency flashers of the car in front, but you can see the ruts which indicate the lanes on the highway.
We almost turned around but there was no place to do that. We came out the other side and there was an accident scene with at least six cars in the ditch. It looked like they had followed each other’s flashers right off the road. I guess there were no ruts at that time.
ANYWAY, here is the bad news..I have to show up at a sewing class tomorrow and admit that although I have plenty of wool and knitting needles, but my efficient packing did not run as far as my sewing machine and notions, which are still set up waiting for me in my dining room. The truly sad part is that I have taken lots of classes with this group of people and possibly none of them will be surprised.
We are heading to Gettysburg, Pa tomorrow so I can take a course on making civil war era stockings and slippers. I figure if they work, my black socks for work problems will fade to a distant memory. As it is we own countless black socks, most of which are fatally flawed in some way or another… too short, too tight in the calf, too big in the foot…
It was ok when Heather was here and needed black socks for her work without any other criteria but black. But alas, she has emptied the nest and become a clothing minimalist. She has decided she will wear nothing but grey t-shirts and black pants for the next year. She bought 7 identical t-shirts and 3 pairs of pants. Cuts down on decision making in the mornings, she says. Just grab the next clean one off the pile. It is apparently a thing these days amongst those in the know. And having the beauty of youth makes it matter not what you wear anyway.
I usually go to Gettysburg for sewing classes or Harrisburg for a civil war conference at least once a year. It is a tradition to visit Cracker Barrel restaurants for pretty much every meal on the way down and back. We don’t have them in Canada, and you gotta love that comfort food.
Asselstine Woollen Factory- Upper Canada Village
I work in the Asselstine Woollen Factory at Upper Canada Village. I have been working at the village for 7 years, and in the Woollen Mill for 4. We are a fully operational, water turbine driven woollen mill. We have all the machinery necessary to make blankets and knitting yarn. Our spinning jack and our set of 3 carding machines were manufactured in Massachusetts in 1867 and we also have a blanket loom from the 1840’s.
I work with two men, Mark and Ron who maintain (read constantly have to troubleshoot) and run the machinery. I do the handwork…mending the blankets, tying the fringe on the ends of blankets, etc. I also run the doubling frame (plying machine) to make the knitting yarn over the lunch hour most days.
Ron in front of a carding machine
Mark at the spinning jack
Some of the things I like about my job:
1) I am paid to talk to people about wool
2) Sometimes I get to knit at work, if I have no blankets to mend or fringe
3) As I mend the blankets, I hear people hit the top of the stairs and say ‘wow’
4) I have not given up hope that Ryan Gosling will visit his family in nearby Cornwall and come for a day trip to the village. Then he would stand in front of me and say ‘hey girl, would you explain 19th century textile production to me?’